My Own Little Personal Spark of Madness
by Tommy Paley
I love my brain.
There, I said it.
I love the way I think, the random, funny, unique and odd ideas and thoughts and lines that formulate in this head of mine make me so happy; giving me sparks of energy and excitement constantly. A little bit mad, a little bit silly, a little bit strange, perhaps and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
It is who I am.
Growing up, I always had this strong desire to be different or unique. Not sure where it came from — my parents, I guess — or brainwashing that I was unaware of. Either way, really. But, it was tough to be different as a kid. Tough to not care if others stared or laughed or made weird faces at you. Tough not to be like everyone else.
Others conformed, trying so so hard to fit in, and finding comfort being part of the masses, the crowd.
Teenagers were everywhere and they covered themselves from head to toe — aside from their eyes and mouths, and often their ears — in whatever cool shirt or shoes or brand that was trending at the time.
A never-ending race to keep up with everyone else.
A magnet that drew them away from standing out as being out of touch.
A secret list of instructions for how to be cool, though I remember always thinking, how can it be cool if everyone is doing it?
And yet it was.
They watched the shows and read the magazines and sang the songs that everyone was watching, reading and singing, occasionally coincidently in unison. Saying what the parents, teachers and friends wanted to hear. Personalities aligning. A sea of people, calling like Sirens, “join us”.
I heard them.
I have ears, you know.
No, I wasn’t this pillar or beacon of different-ness. I wasn’t this lone wolf, or dude with sunglasses or trendsetter who could stand alone. No, I, too felt the pull, heard the call and was tempted by the comfort that often only comes when one of many or when covered in flannel or a really good duvet.
Yet, even when I joined in and went with the flow, choosing the well-taken path, it just never felt right. Not that it wasn’t nice to get invited to those parties and get random high-fives from others who had drunk the Kool-Aid.
But it also wasn’t.
It never felt like I was being true to myself when I did. It felt like selling out (from what I’ve read about the process). Or selling my soul to the devil (again, just a guess — no personal experience in the area). It should have been fun, but it wasn’t. As much fun as was to belong, I always wanted to run, jump and march to the beat of my own drummer.
(Note to all you reading this: finding your own drummer is much harder than it sounds especially if you want a good one who can actually keep a beat.)
I was always looking for the exit door (big fan of exiting). Wanting to become my own man. Jumping ship so I could just be myself, which is tough for a nerdy teenager with glasses and misfitting clothes partially because the glasses were always sliding down my nose.
I so badly wanted to dress differently, have unique thoughts and watch, read and listen to other stuff. Stuff that wasn’t “popular”.
So, I did.
I loved when someone called me different or unique and even weird (as long as it seemed sort of like a compliment).
Little by little, gaining momentum as I aged. Gaining confidence as I matured. Ripening like an apple on a tree, or so I was told on two separate occasions by the nearsighted lady across the street.
Over time, those voices who beckoned, the ones who didn’t like when someone didn’t just fall in line with all of the others, grew quieter. Or, those voices were the same volume they ever were. But all of the millions of ideas and thoughts and random funny lines in my head that were bouncing with great velocity, assaulting my insides, attempting to break out, finally did, drowning them out.
But, it wasn’t like I woke up one day seeing the light. Light is bright, sort of hard to miss. No, I believe the madness and creativity and oddball guy was always inside me, sometimes lounging watching movies, but most of the time aching to be one with this body he was trapped inside of. I had this drive to be who I was meant to be, but it took time for that guy to fully emerge from the shadows (shadows are really dark).
Though it took years, some missteps, some backslides, when he fully arrived there was no looking back except on those rare occasions when something really interesting was happening behind me.
And for years, I was that guy with no real outlet aside from talking. Now, I love talking as much as the next guy (depends on the guy), but I spent years yearning for a way to express my true self. Dancing, singing, playing saxophone and drawing anything aside from rudimentary stick men and the women who love them just didn’t do it for me or any of the other humans I interacted with (furniture and other inanimate objects are way more tolerant).
It was like I was speaking a foreign language, but I only knew a short list of adjectives and a couple of verbs. I needed a medium (see where I went there?) or canvas or platform or possibly a medium that involved a canvas-covered platform.
I was so confused and lost and hungry until the pizza arrived.
Then I began to write.
Not sure why or where or how (actually, I do know how, I think).
I just started one day like it was my destiny or fate or predestination or possibly, once again, brainwashing.
All of a sudden, it was like someone opened the floodgates or sprayed silly string everywhere (and I mean everywhere — in a word, gross) or let the dogs out begging the question why were we keeping so many dogs in the first place — like what was the purpose? Letting them out? That’s it? Seems suspicious — there is something someone isn’t telling me about all those dogs.
Once I started writing, I just couldn’t stop (honesty time out: I stop all the time — just trying to make a point that I write often). Words on their own and often grouped together to make sentences that were often coherent and often not so much, jumped from my brain to my fingers, taking a short rest stop just southeast of my kidney (really good view) before leaping onto the screen so my eyes could get involved. Happy now, eyes?
Stories and stories pour out of me constantly. Clean up in aisle three!
This spark of madness or creativity that was trapped for years is alive and well.
This was my story.